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My name is Langston Karmen, and I'm a black man who loves conspiracy theories.


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I'm Baratunde Thurston, author, activist and comedian, and I've got a new podcast, How to Citizen with Baratunde in our democratic experiment is at a tipping point of which way we tip is up to us. I Heart Radio is number one for podcast, but don't take our word for it. Find how to citizen with Fahrettin Day on the radio app or wherever you get your podcast.


Hey everybody, it's us and we're here to talk to you about get this, our book. We have a stuff you should know book coming out this November and you're going to love it and you can preorder it now.


That's right. It's called stuff you should know Kullen, an incomplete compendium of mostly interesting things. And it's been a lot of fun to work on. And we're really, I mean, genuinely excited about how this thing has come together. Yep. It's twenty six Chunky Harry chapters that are just going to knock your socks clean off. And yes, Chuck, we are indeed proud of this book. It is truly indubitably the first stuff you should know book and it's coming out this November and you can order it now.


Preorder everywhere you get books. So do that. And we thank you in advance.


Welcome to Stuff You Should Know. A production of bought radios, HowStuffWorks. Hey, and welcome to the podcast, I'm Josh, there's Chuck Jeri's out there in the ether somewhere, um, like that one kid being transmitted from the camera to the TV and Willy Wonka. Wow. I got that one. It kind of wrong. Yeah.


But anyway, this is stuff you should know, which is appropriate that I would get something kind of wrong right at the beginning.


Did you ever hear the story from Gene Wilder about the move at the beginning of that movie where he walks out with a cane, where he did the spill, the somersault sticks the cane in the ground and does a somersault? No, he said that that was his idea. Mm hmm. And this just shows the brilliance of Gene Wilder. And he said he did that because he knew from that moment on and no one would believe anything that that character said.


Oh, yes, I have heard that before. Great. That is that is brilliant. That man was a brilliant man and a wonderful human being.


I loved him. He's got one of his last interviews on Conan O'Brien was so great because Conan was just gushing and oh, I'm sure Gene Wilder was very, I think, kind of taken aback by how much he means to people.


Have you ever seen. Oh, no, that wasn't the question I had. Did you know? Did you know? The question was, did you fart? Did you know that Conan O'Brien and Denis Leary or Cousins?


I don't think I knew that. According to Conan O'Brien asking a question on Jeopardy, that is his cousin did not know that. Speaking of Jeopardy, we have a colleague named Ken Jennings who is on Jeopardy! Yeah. And we have another colleague, two colleagues called Daniel and Whorey, and they have a podcast called Daniel and George. Explain the Universe. It's pretty cool. But they also, Chuck, I just saw have a PBS kids animated program coming out September 7th called Elenor wonders why.


OK. And it looks adorable.


Wow. That sounds like right up my daughter's alley. Yeah. So check it out, everybody. PBS kids, September 7th. Eleanor wonders why. And congrats, Daniel and Whorey.


Do you have any famous cousins, famous or infamous?


I think we are the famous cousins. That's that's all that our families are. Yeah.


Feels pretty great, though. I keep being like, hey, let's have another family reunion this month.


Speaking of infamous cousins, Chuck, how about those Anglin brothers, huh?


Yeah, man, this is I kind of thought I kind of thought we did this and. No, we do we do one on Alcatraz and maybe it just briefly touched on it. Absolutely. Because this is this movie, the nineteen seventy nine Escape from Alcatraz movie with Clint Eastwood was one of my favorite movies as a kid.


It's a good movie. I watched it just the other night as part of this. Yeah, it was an HBO special so I must have been I didn't see it when I was eight. I probably was like 10 or 11 and it was one of those movies I probably watched over a dozen times when I was 12, 12 years old, followed by Croal and Outline.


Oh man, those are great. Yeah. They always went together though, didn't they. Yeah.


And war games, I mean those were all HBO specials, but this was a really good movie and I'm a big, big fan of Prison Escape movies. Sure. And I was thinking today when I was looking over this stuff again, that it's so weird that, like, these guys were hardened criminals.


And yet when you're researching this, all you can think about is, oh, man, I hope they got out of there. Right. And I hope they lived the fat life in Brazil.


Well, that really speaks to, like, who they are, what they became because of this escape, which is put most simply their folk heroes. I guess so. Yeah, that's definitely a part of being a folk hero, is that you can transcend the kind of like crime judgments that society typically levies against people like criminals. Like if you if you are so good at your craft or so good at something to do with criminality, that you transcend being judged for your crimes, that you've become a folk hero for sure.


It's like D.B. Cooper. Yeah.


And I think it helps that, you know, these guys were armed robbers and thieves. And I think Frank Morris and we'll get into all these these dudes are. But he was a drug trafficker, but they weren't rapists and murderers. I don't think any trends in that.


No, they they were definitely non-violent criminals from everything that I've seen.


Yeah. They used a toy gun and one of these robberies. Yeah, it's adorable.


Well, let's talk about these guys. Like you were saying, we're talking about a group of people who escaped from Alcatraz. And as far as anyone knows, they are the only ones who really may have escaped from Alcatraz. They vanished in nineteen sixty two, last seen leaving their cells and were never heard from again. And like you said, they were all hardened criminals, like lifelong career criminals. Frank Morris was 35 when he left Alcatraz and he'd been a criminal since he was 13.


He was in and out of institutions. And like you said, he wasn't a violent criminal. He wasn't a rapist or a murderer or anything like that. He was used. He'd like to to to sell the drugs. Yeah. Like his forehead tattooed or a star tattooed on his forehead for a while, which he very sensibly had removed later on, is what that means.


But it was a drug trafficker. Yes. No, I think that means that he did a few too many drugs one night.


Oh, he really did have a star. Yeah, I thought that was some prison thing for, like, the teardrop tattoo means you didn't I mean, you killed somebody or something. That's what I've always heard. But I don't know. It could just be urban legend. But yes, what I've always heard. No, I really did have a star, OK? Yeah. I think he got super wasted star tattooed on his forehead. There is a tattoo artist far too handy that night.




Yeah. Which I think the old saying don't ever make friends with tattoo artist. Yeah. Or at least drinking buddies. Sure. That's true, but he was also super smart, too. Yeah, and they point this out in the movie and a lot of the movie, I mean, it's pretty close to the real story. They did a really good job, but they do make a big deal in the movie about how smart he was and how IQ is sort of take it or leave it as far as that being a real measurement of one's intelligence.


But he supposedly had an IQ of 130 and the the BOP, which stands for the was it Bureau of Prisons? Mm hmm. I didn't know they had rankings, but they had rankings of intellectual intellectuality. Is that a word? Yeah, I think so. It gets the point across. Ergo, it is. Yeah. And I'm curious what other rankings they have. But, you know, best look at best abs. But he was in the top two percent supposedly in the American prison system as far as his intellectual capabilities.


Yeah. So you you hit on a point there. I think we need to at least at least bring up like the the the movie did follow the actual the truth of the matter fairly closely in some cases. In other cases, it veered wildly away, like there was a character based on one guy who was very much involved, but they didn't even use his name. And they made him seem less involved that he actually was. There's a lot that the movie gets wrong.


But the problem with covering this is that there's so many gaps and holes that are so easily casually filled in that you can't help but wonder, like what was this? Was this detail provided by somebody who saw the movie and took the movie as fact, like, where are we exactly and just how pure the knowledge and understanding is of this escape. So you have to just kind of bear that in mind that it's kind of a blur in the annals of crime as far as factuality goes.


Yeah, but it's a good story. Great story. And most of this is pretty true, I think. Mm hmm. So Frank Morris was four years into a 14 year stint and this was for a bank robbery and he was transferred to the rock in 1960.


The right.


Know, we were using bingo, it's Alcatraz. It's a prison island or an island prison. Yeah. And some might say the island itself is a prison, which will get to.


And then his buddies, you mentioned, the Anglin brothers, J.W., John William and his younger brother Clarence, were 30 and 29 years old, and they were from a very big family of migrant farm workers in south Georgia. They traveled all over the country, wherever the work was, basically as a big family. And they got into stealing things from people.


Yeah, and they were the ones who used the toy gun later on. They they were, I think, visiting family in a small town called Columbia, Alabama, which is in the southeast of the state. And they found out that this bank had been around for 100 years in this town. It had never been robbed. So they assumed we're going to change that. He'll be easy to knock over. And apparently it was pretty easy to knock over.


And they had a toy gun that they used and they still managed to get away with at least, I think like 10 grand or 20 grand something pretty substantial amount of money. And they were on the run for a little while, but they got caught in the Alabamans were not very happy with it. And they threw the book at these brothers. They got 25 year sentences for robbing a bank with a toy gun. And that actually was way better than the sentence they initially faced, which was the potentially the death penalty.


That's crazy. Yeah.


So they were they were they were caught and busted. And they had a third brother named Alfred, too, who was also involved. But he was never sent to that to the rock, as you put it.


I bet it was not a bet. It was actually a lot easier to rob banks back then. Yeah, it was way easier to be a criminal even just a few decades ago. Yeah, just in general. I think now it's like don't even try.


Now you get I mean, if it's not the cops and their cameras, you got some dumb neighbor with their cameras like me, right. Oh man. I hate to get off topic so quickly and we should post this on the Facebook page or something or maybe I'll put it on Instagram. But I got attacked by a squirrel and it was captured by my front of the house camera. Oh yeah.


Everyone wants to see. That is great.


I just I was taking out some recycling and I heard some rustling and I went around the corner and I was like, this squirrel was freaking out. And then he literally leapt. If you freeze frame it, he leapt three feet in the air. Wow. And hit my leg and ran up my leg a little bit.


And then wow. And I react thusly, that's awesome. You know, it would be wonderful to intercut close ups of your face when you got that Charley horse on Internet round. Oh, my God.


In with the squirrel attack. It's a good thing I don't care about myself and looking dumb.


Why did you why did that squirrel attack you? Would you do it? I didn't do anything. It was freaking out. And then I turned and looked after I dropped the recycling off and he and another squirrel were going at it, our oak tree.


So I think he was just he was all riled up. He might have taken it out on you.


Yeah. Did he have a star tattooed on his forehead? He did. Right on his little tiny furry forehead. Well, yes, please do post that. OK, so.


All right. These guys are all in Alcatraz and Alcatraz at the time was like I said, it was sort of the rock itself. What's the prison? And that was the idea was that even if you're even if you managed to get out of the prison that they eventually built, which we'll talk about, then you still can't get out of there because you got to swim it over a mile to the nearest body of land, about one point three miles.


That water's really cold. The currents are brutal. The winds are really strong. San Francisco Bay is not, you know, for people that haven't been there, it's not just some lovely little chill body of water that you hang out in.


No, it's not a very hospitable body of water. It's not. So the idea was that, yeah, like when you got sent to Alcatraz, you weren't getting off of that island. You either paroled or died. And that was actually the reason that the Englands and Frank Morris were sent there, was because they had all met at the federal pen in Atlanta. I guess the one down in Grant Park, right? Yeah, which that building is amazing.


It's one of the most forbidding buildings in the world. I would say it looks like an old timey federal penitentiary. And Al Capone was there, too, for a little while.


Yeah, I actually drove by there not too long ago with my daughter for the first time. And I was like, check out that building. Look at that. It's like that's a prison, what's a prison? And I went, oh, well, I guess I got to explain that. I'll tell you when you're eighteen if you make it and don't go to prison first. Right.


So they they all met at the federal prison in Atlanta. And I can't remember if they actually made it out or if they were caught escaping, but they were known. Escape artists like the Frank Morris had escaped from places in Florida. They didn't stay put when you when you put them in prison. And so that's why they were all sent to Alcatraz. And just crazily, as they arrived between 1960 in nineteen sixty one, they were all put pretty close together.


And in fact, the Anglin brothers had adjoining cells, which is a very stupid thing to do. But that's what they did in part, I believe, because. There is a certain thread of arrogance that ran through the administration of Alcatraz that it was just basically inescapable.


Yeah, and I think you also sort of want happy prisoners. And I've heard of requests like that being made possible before, like, hey, if you put me near my brother, we're going to be a lot better behaved. Yeah, we're definitely not going to break out. I don't think we mentioned either, like Alcatraz was so formidable as just an island that the very first time they used it was when the army put soldiers there who who cheered on President Lincoln's death.


And so they didn't even bother building a prison, though. They just built some barracks, threw him on the island like, well, you're in prison now because good luck getting out of here.


Yeah, that's what I thought, too. And when the the Bureau of Prisons took over, they they really fortified it even more. Like you said, there was a larger building that housed everything from like the mess hall to the cellblocks. So when you were in a cell, in a cell block, you were in and you were in a little tiny prison inside a larger prison inside this island prison in the cell blocks themselves had like three inch thick concrete walls, reinforced iron bars.


The building itself is made of very thick concrete. It was it was just meant to to to basically tell you there's there's no getting out here. But what's crazy is Frank Morris and the Anglin brothers, they weren't the first people to ever try to bust out. I believe they were part of a total of 36 people who tried to escape in the history of the prison. Everybody else, almost everybody else was either killed or captured or their bodies were found.


Except and I did not realize this, Morris and the England brothers were not the first people that vanished without a trace from Alcatraz. Had you heard about Ted Cole and Ralph Rowe? I hadn't heard about them until this. But in the thirties, late 30s, they did escape and they did vanish. And, you know, sort of like where this story's going. I don't think anyone wants to admit that from the prison system that they could have really made it right.


So they're like now they died. They drowned.


But the thing is, the thing that really differentiates the Anglin brothers and Frank Morris from guys like Ted Cole and Ralph Rowe, they all share in common that they escape from Alcatraz and vanished without a trace. The thing that differentiates Morris and the Englands is that their folk heroes because almost exclusively because of this plan, they devised and executed and that the plan was so good and so complex and well done, that it actually lends credence to the idea that they may have survived and escaped from Alcatraz genuinely.


Yeah. And what they had in common is that they were all top 10 in best abs and the prison system.


Yep. And what everybody listening right now has in common is that you're about to hear. Anad.


Powerful and ancient, they exist right alongside us in their own dimensions, their own tribes and their own kingdoms, some say they are the eternal mortal enemy of mankind. Others say they're so similar to us that we can befriend them like us. They're born and they die. They fall in love and have children they hate and they destroy. But in truth, they are nothing like us. Invisible, but as real as a smokeless flame that they're created out of, they are the hidden gem brought to you by I heart radio and Aramaic is grim and mild and written and narrated by me, Rabia Chaudry.


The new podcast, The Hidden Gem journeys into a world that few may be aware of, but has existed since the dawn of time. The hidden gem, once worshiped and always feared, joined me to find out why. Then all the episodes of The Hidden Gin on Apple podcast, the I Heart radio app, or wherever you get your podcasts. What if we reimagine the word citizen not as a weapon to divide us, but as a verb, inviting us all to wield our collective power?


Pretty del Ponte. In this time of pandemic and revolution, you may find yourself frustrated at high levels of corruption and inequality, at our inability to get basic things done at the persistence of systemic racism. You are not alone. I'm Baratunde Thurston. I've produced for The Daily Show, advised the Obama White House and screamed way too much at my screen.


Now I've made a show for us. In it we highlight people mobilizing their communities, having an impact on some of the biggest challenges we face. We offer you ways to get involved and we remind you that we, the people, have the collective power to change how our society works and for whom. Listen to how the citizen with Baratunde on the Heart radio app, Apple podcast, or wherever you listen to a podcast.


Cha cha cha cha cha cha cha cha cha cha cha cha cha cha cha.


OK, we're back, everybody. And I think it's high time we we talk about the plan, the escape plan, don't you? Yeah. If you're going to escape from Alcatraz, it's not the kind of thing where you distract a guard and just run and jump over a fence. You got to start this thing, this plan many months in advance. And by all accounts, they and by all accounts, meaning from the one account that we really have this they started planning easily six months before the escape.


They start developing this plan.


They start collecting kind of anything they can get their hands on that they think they can use everything from just loose nuts and bolts and screws to things. I mean, they actually ended up using a lot of this stuff, but I got the impression that they were just kind of like any time they saw something that they could squirrel away and hide, they would do it because you never know what you could use it for. Yeah.


And so, like, over the six month period, they amassed something like 80 tools that they either stole, had stolen for them, rebuild or repurposed out of other stuff or just made completely out of like their own labor, like they had a pretty extensive tool kit that they created. One of the ways that they got a lot of the tools was from Allen West, who we haven't mentioned yet. But a lot of people don't realize there was a fourth conspirator in the Alcatraz Escape who was a major, integral part of it, but who actually didn't go along with the escape.


As we'll see a man that part in the movie so tough it is, especially with that poor guy.


He just looks, yeah, that character boom, like down on my luck. Can you spare a dime for them?


He's so good. He's been in so many things.


But he was I think he was the guy who played Kramer on Seinfeld in the in the pilot.


In the NBC pilot. Yeah. So like in the show, the guy playing Kramer right. On the show. In the show. I think that was him. Yeah. He stole the Eminem's I think. Yeah. Yeah. So he was an escape from Alcatraz too. Yeah. He just he's, he's perfect for that part. But this guy named Allen West, he was on the painting crew and he put that to use big time. One of the first ways he did it was he was in the prison barber shop and managed to steal a pair of electric clippers while he was in there painting.


And they were like, hey, this motor will come in handy. Let's repurpose it into a power drill. And they did. Yeah, that's pretty cool. He also I mean, just having a little motor so handy. So he came across a vacuum cleaner that wasn't working and he said, hey, you mind if I repair this?


I've got to shake the tree first.


But after that, you mind if I repair this and they call it the vacuuming now and you've got to pee on the chain gang that you call it shaking the tree.


Oh, I guess I think that's what it's called. Sure. But I mean, what does that have to do with fixing a vacuum? Nothing. It's just prison humor. Oh, I got me a lot of prison jokes. All the inmates with listening right now busted out laughing like he said, shake the tree. Well, it's a drinking game.


We'll explain if you're listening from prison.


If someone says, shake the tree, take a drink of pruno, well, that's another drink. Yeah, that's. But that's what you would drink when somebody said, shake the tree. It gets the tree one more time. Right. Shake the tree, guys. I think everybody's got a pretty good buzz in prison right now. So he says, let me fix this vacuum cleaner. They say that's fine. He saw the vacuum cleaner, had a couple of different motors and one of which he used to repair and actually make, you know, pass it off as a working vacuum cleaner.


And then he just took that other one. And that meant that they could make a drill that was even more. Powerful than the other one. Yeah, so they had not one, but two electric drills at their disposal, which kind of gives you a pretty good idea of just how dedicated and smart and crafty these guys were, right? Yes. They also very famously ended up with 55 zero different raincoats that were made from rubber prison issue raincoats.


So they got from other inmates. And this really reveals something that I think a lot of people don't necessarily realize. It seems like basically all the inmates in prison with Anglin, the Englands and Maurice were well aware of their plans, not necessarily every detail or even any of the details, just that they were planning on breaking out. And so they managed to get their hands on like 50 different raincoats from other prisoners that they used to to build a life raft and life vests with pretty great.


I think the idea was, is that these guys didn't like being on Alcatraz. So they kind of figured, hey, if these guys actually get out, they're going to close this place down. We're going to get out of here right now. You know, I don't I don't know if I would have gone along with that rationale.


I would have thought it's going to be even worse for us here.


Oh, yeah. But we'll we'll hang on to what happened till the end of the show. How about that?


I think everybody would have kept their pruno from you had you raised that point, you know, so they've got all the stuff, they got paint, they got paper, they collect hair. And from the from the barbershop they, like, sweep up his hair and keep that. You might be thinking, why in the world would they need that would just wait. You'll see. And then they had about three and a half hours each evening after dinner slop and before lights out where they had to work and create, you know, a way out of their prison cell.


And then once they get out of their prison cell, like you said, they're still in this larger building, then a way out of there. But the first trick is getting out of their individual cells.


Yeah. So from what I understand, it took up like the lion's share of the time between when they first hatched this plan in the time when they finally escaped, um, there were like these little six by eight or nine or something, very small ventilation shaft cemented into the wall. The grates were cemented into the wall, but really it was just a little metal grate over a hole. So they figured they could start chipping away at that hole and enlarge the hole into something they could crawl through.


And that's exactly what they did eventually. Over time, Frank Morris and then both of the Anglin brothers managed to create these holes, and they did so by by serving as lookout for one another while the other one chipped one night and then they would trade off that kind of thing. And then here's the question that I have. I could not confirm one way or the other if it was a movie thing or if it was a real life thing. But in the movie, they create these kind of cardboard false walls.


Yeah. That they're able to fill the hole with that. It looks like the great is still there in the wall is still intact. So when they were out of their cells, they could put this false wall in behind them and nobody would be any the wiser when they just walked past and casually glanced in there. I don't know if they did that or not.


I mean, it's a pretty great detail of the movie, so I'm inclined to believe it. Let's go with it. What I didn't see in here, I don't I haven't seen it a long time. Did they have those drills in the movie?


Because I just remember a lot of digging with the they kind of just used a sharpened spoon as a a little mini pick, a sharpened spoon with a the warden's fingernail clippers that he steals and like one of the first scenes.


But there was no drill in the movie, was there? Not that I remember. So there definitely were two drills, one of the one of the drills, that one with the vacuum motor. They actually figured out it's just too loud, it's too powerful and too loud. So they abandoned that one. But I don't know what became of the the hair clipper drill. I didn't hear anything about that one other than they created it and used it.


Well, they managed to dig through, though, where they could get their bodies out of the cell. And that just must have felt like, you know, we're halfway there at this point, guys. Oh, yeah. I'll bet. So they from there, it led to a utility corridor. It's about a meter wide. And there were no guards in here because this is sort of like the guts of the prison. Yeah. Like, why would you need to guard where there are no people wink wink in that corridor?


They could kind of move around freely. They would climb up to the ceiling. This is like a three story cellblock still within a larger building, though, of course, like we mentioned.


And then they had a full on workshop up there for a few weeks. They could store their tools, they could hide their stuff, they could build. We haven't really talked about the rest, but where they would much they would build their rafts there. And it just sort of sort of serves as their staging area where they would eventually leave from to go by this big, heavy iron. Great. To a ventilation shaft which actually finally led to the rooftop, right, but that big iron grate was a big iron problem because the bars were reinforced.


There was they were, I think, welded or maybe screw it, I'm not sure, into this iron ring that covered this ventilation shaft. So it was a big problem. And then they figured out that the bolts holding this whole thing together were actually not nearly as strong as the bars that made up the great and the ring that held the bars. So they started working away at cutting these bolts one way or another. I think they created a wrench.


They built themselves a wrench, and they managed to use that to some pretty good effect. But it went from digging out of their cells to figuring out a way to get through this. Great. That was kind of like stage two then. Then let's talk about the raft, because the raft is an extremely important part of this whole thing. I think really one of the things, if not the thing that lends credence to the idea that they might have actually made it.


Yeah. So they got these raincoats and back then raincoats were just basically sheets of rubber. Yeah.


They didn't breathe very well. They're very hot things like sweaty Gorton's fisherman type of stuff. The sweaty Gorton's fisherman.


Oh yeah. That guy was always sweaty. So they ended up creating a six foot by 14 foot life raft from these raincoats, from an article in Popular Mechanics, which shows up a couple of times. Very useful magazine if you are trying to escape prison. And it was an article about a hunter who had gotten lost and survived hunting geese that he attracted using rubber decoys that he'd made. So they get this idea. They build these inflatable pontoons made from these raincoat sleeves.


So they were stuffed inside and made airtight by gluing rubber cement contacts, cement over the seams and then pressing against steel pipes, which vulcanized that it just basically melted everything shut. And then you have these floatable pontoons that you could use and craft this larger raft. Yeah.


So they had something that was inflatable because those seams were vulcanized. It would hold the air. The air couldn't escape and they used a concertina. How I can't remember. Handsome Pete is like a little a little guy who plays the accordion down on the docks that looks just like Krusty the Clown and one of The Simpsons episodes. And he's playing a concertina. It's like a squeeze box. It's like an accordion without the keys in the buttons.


Yeah, but it acts as a bellows because it moves air. Essentially, that's what they used it for.


They modified it so that they could use it to inflate their craft very quickly with this concertina that I guess they stole from the prison music room, which is pretty great. So they're working on all the stuff in the raft. In particular this this is like the the linchpin of this whole plan is this raft and these life preservers that work fell to Allen West. So while these dudes were like chipping away at the ventilation holes, Allen was standing lookout for most of them.


And he was creating this raft in these life vests. And so he wasn't able to chip away at his own ventilation hole nearly as fast. So while they were out, you know, working on the the great the vent cover, great, he still had no way out of his cell at that point. He had made it all the way through.


Yeah. And, you know, we should point out something that earlier we mentioned if if they happen to walk by and they don't notice a hole on the wall because they may or may not have made these false grates and walls. Mm hmm. If you're a listener and you don't know the story, you might have said like, yeah, but wouldn't they have noticed there was no one in the cell?


Good question. What they did was they made papier mâché recreations of themselves.


They made these busts and they used that prison hair so is so good and use that rubber cement again to glue this hair on. And if you see the real things.


It's not madam to or anything, it's not like, boy, look at that likeness photorealistic, but it's in the dark and you're sort of I think is a human trained to see what you're looking for.


So if you're a guard that's just walking by, you see ahead turn the other way with prison hair on it and some pillows under a blanket. And you don't think it looks fake?


It just looks like it wouldn't like Ferris Bueller style with like a fake snore on the Hi-Fi system or anything, but you just kind of walk past it. It worked well enough. Like they did this for weeks and weeks and weeks with these papier mâché busts. And it worked. They never got noticed.


No, they didn't. Because, I mean, remember, like, they were working between the end of dinner and lights out. So they just seem to have made it look like they went to bed early and put the papier mâché busts in there. Like the guys sure are sleepy.


Yeah. They must be Perrineau for you, Frank. Got lot.


I got a lot of questions about this, but I'm not going to investigate any further. Exactly. So do you want to talk about the escape and then go to a break?


Yeah, I think that's the way to do it. OK, so finally they get to this point where the great is the bars are removed from this great enough that they can slip through and they realize that they have, um, they have successfully penetrated to the exterior of the building. That's right. OK, they're on the roof.


Well, they know they can go down the roof now. They know this go night. I bet you they got up there at least once to be like, all right, I don't know.


I haven't heard anything like that. And there's a lot of questions about why this particular night. Was this the very first night that they were able to get out? And they're like, let's go, which seems likely to me or were they waiting for a particular night? Or like you said, they tested it before they do any dry runs. We don't really know that. But we do know is that on Monday, June 11th, 1962, J.W. Anglin, Clarence Anglin and Frank Morris all left their cells.


And the first thing Frank Morris did was go to help Allen West finished puncturing the hole through his cell wall. Porcelain still had not done this yet. He's like, come on, we've got to go. But apparently part of the plan was to help him punch the hole out the rest of the way. And then he escaped with them. Frank Morris apparently tried in vain and went off to get Clarence Anglin to to come try. They traded off and then Clarence tried.


He couldn't do it either.


So I guess he had the very, uh, uncomfortable coverage. I'll be right back. I got to go. I got to go shake the tree. Right. Or something like that. I'll be right back. You see here. Yeah. And that was the last anybody ever saw of Frank Morris, Clarence Anglin or J.W. Anglin from from that moment until today. Yeah.


So they get to that corridor, they climb up to the roof of the cellblock and then through that ventilation shaft, that grate is no longer a problem. And they push Allen West.


They can just barely hear him saying, like, you guys are coming back. Right.


Any minute now you said so there's this rain cover on top. They push that thing off. And this this all make some noise in the movie. They they kind of accurately display that to as some clanking and clanging around. Yeah. And I don't think in the movie they did this, but in real life, supposedly there was so much noise that they did like a little 45 minute kind of a search of the area. Right. Didn't see. No, they didn't go up on the roof, that's for sure.


Yeah. And they basically didn't find anything.


So the guys are out. They shimmy about fifty feet to the ground via drainpipe, which is how you always do it. Go to that perimeter fence. And I'm sure the perimeter fence was fine, but I think the idea was there never getting out anyway. So I don't think it had like 15 feet of razor wire or anything like that.


I think it did have double barbed wire, at least for sure. It's nothing for us. It's not like concertina wire or anything like that.


Around 1:00 in the morning, Alan West Paw, Allen West, he finally gets that cell great. Broken open. Yeah, I'm sure he just thinks, all right, I'm going to catch up to these guys and it's going to be all good. Right? I'm getting out of here. Follow that same route. It's been a couple of hours at this point, though. He saw these were genuinely good dudes, it seemed like, because they did leave him a paddle.


I don't think we mentioned they made paddles out of chair legs and the screws and nuts and bolts. Yeah. And a pontoon that was all inflated for him and he got a little snack.


Little Rice Krispie Rice Krispie treat, the little a little shot of pruno for his for his courage. And then he looks over terrible timing and there's a guard in a new position that basically could see anything that he tries to do. Yeah. From that point forward, he's visually pinned.


Down on the roof, he can't do anything, so this is around 1:00 a.m. or something, and he figures, OK, the guard will eventually move. Well, Allen West says the guard never moved for until dawn.


But doesn't this guy pee? Right, doesn't even shake the tree. And he didn't he did not shake the tree stayed put. And so eventually Allen West was forced to climb back down the ventilation shaft, back down from the roof of the cellblock at a three stories back to his cell that he had just a few hours earlier. Finally, after months, punched a hole through and he went and lay down and just waited for the heat to come down on them.


And indeed it did, because at the seven a.m. bed check, three dummy heads were discovered where three inmates, real head should have been and the prison just went berserk. You know, that feeling you get when you take a wrong turn and go like three or four miles in the wrong direction and have to go all the way back the other way? Yeah. Imagine being Allen West and having to do that. That times infinity. Bad times infinity.


Yeah. You got to take another break. I think so, man. All right.


We'll get to the well, we won't get to the bottom of this, but we'll speculate all over the place right after this.


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These are just the facts. Folks, do yourself a favor and listen to Street Fire with Jason McIntyre on the I Heart radio app, Apple podcast or wherever you get your podcasts. Cha cha cha cha cha cha cha cha cha cha cha. OK, so there are some things that we know about this from watching the movie, but the movie writers based the movie on a book and the book author, I believe, based this stuff on an interview or interviews with Alan West that Alan West had with the Bureau of Prisons and the FBI, because basically everything we know about the escape from Alcatraz came from the mouth of Allen West.


Yeah. So he made a deal. He said, listen, I'll tell you all about it, but you can't throw me in here for longer because I tried to escape prison. You've got to give me immunity for that attempted escape. And let's be honest, guys, it really wasn't much of an attempt. Can you give me a break here? Right. I had to make the sad walk of shame back to you. So I have a feeling that they're definitely factored into their decision to give them immunity, like, man, probably.


So you really you really got a hard luck case.


So he makes a deal and says, I'll tell you everything. But again, this is just his account of it. One thing that kind of jumped out is maybe it's not the most accurate account was that he was like, yeah, I was the mastermind.


I thought up the whole thing from the start. Yeah. And I don't know if that's quite true because it seems like Clint Eastwood did.


Yeah. Certainly in the movie the is basically it should be called Colen the Frank Morris story. Yeah. He's the main character. Everybody else is a side character. Who's Clint. So it really kind of downplayed a lot of the contributions by the Anglin brothers, certainly by Allen West, doesn't even use Allen West name. So I don't know how much of an influence is from that movie or if that movie was just based on the general idea that Frank Morris was the mastermind and the leader, that he was a very intelligent person and kind of a born leader, from what I know.


So it's just not clear whether Allen West actually came up with this plan or not. Was he the one who sowed the raft all this time and he got left behind? Or maybe he had really weak arms. And this was just what he told the the the Bureau of Prisons investigators. It was the reason why he never was able to chip out of his cell. Who knows? But just so just bear in mind from this point forward, where is this going to go on with with this is gospel.


But all of this is coming from Allen West mouth. He was the one that was left behind.


I feel like in the movie he got to the point where he could not jump up by himself and reach the great. Is that right?


Yeah. So in the movie, they help each other up. Right. And he would he would have had to have done it himself and he couldn't jump.


He just kept jumping and jumping and couldn't make it.


Yes. But from what I know, he made it up to the roof and was pinned down on the roof by that that guard in the watch. Yeah. But I don't think it was a guy sight. No, no, no, no. You're right. In the movie, it was like that.


So the plan was and this is again from West Accounts said was to sail this raft or I guess paddle this raft across the bay to Angel Island about a mile away, a little over. And he said from there they were going to rest for a little bit, get their bearings, stash everything, and then swim to the mainland across what's called the Raccoon Straits to Marin County. And then once they got there, they would start doing crime again immediately.


They would rob a store for clothes and money and steal a car and get the heck out of there as quickly as possible before the word gets out.


It's definitely which is a pretty great plan, actually, except for the crime part, like I would have.


I don't know. I guess the idea is to just get as far away as possible, but I don't know if I would have. Yeah, but you need a car.


It's not like somebody is going to just give you one. I can take the part. You sure you could take the bar. I guess the was around back then.


I think it was a pretty good maybe they were just like one last heist to get away from here. Maybe that's what it was.


Maybe because they just want I mean, I get that want the urge to get as far away from there as possible. Yeah. But also what if all of a sudden cops are on you from stealing a car immediately?


I guess it's a risk. It's all a risk. It is a big risk in a lot of people say that they were actually helped. On the other side, there was a guy named Oh, man, I can't remember his last name, but his first name or his nickname was Bumpe. He was a McGillicuddy Harlem crime lord, drug lord, who is just a total B.A. And they think that he may have had something to do with helping them escape with somebody who would have shown up and picked them up and driven them off.


Other people say that one of the England's girlfriends was there, but the FBI supposedly investigated and said Frank Morris didn't have anybody. He was an orphan. He didn't have anybody in the outside. He could have helped the Englands had family. That definitely would have helped if they could. But they didn't have the means to actually to help them out in San Francisco or bumpkins.


So, yeah, but they were a tight family and they were the kind of family where I think if one of them it can't be like I'm breaking out, I need you to pick me up. They would have done it. They're like that kind. A tight family bond, not like my family would be like, oh, well, I'll call you right back and then. Hello, FBI. How much of your award do you have for giving up a prison escape?


Yes, a federal prison. Oh, that much? Great. Do you have a pen? Can you do any better? So that's exactly what my family would follow up when they did find some evidence.


So they did a search for about a week and a half along with the FBI, like you were saying in the Bureau of Prisons and the Alcatraz people. They were all super mad, of course, especially in the movie version. And they search Angel Island. They searched all the other islands in the bay. And they did find one of those life preservers that had teeth marks on the inflation valve. They found a wallet wrapped in plastic that they figured was J.W. Englands.


Yeah, they found one of those owners and they found it looked like most of one of the rafts or most of the raft.


It did. But no bodies, no stolen cars, no burglaries.


No one had reported anything in the area. Unusual to to according to their plan, which was to, you know, steal clothes and money in a car. Yeah.


And so the Bureau of Prisons, like, right out of the gate was like they drowned. They were washed out to sea. That's it. We'll never hear from them again. But they're dead. They didn't actually escape. And this was in nineteen sixty two. It wasn't until 1979 that the FBI closed the book and said, yeah, that's probably what happened. We presume that they were dead and their bodies lost at sea. But when they were building this case, they cited the story of a guy named Seymour Webb who had jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge at virtually the same time.


The Englands and Morris would have been in San Francisco Bay and his body was never found, despite there being witnesses who watched him jump. Very flimsy. Yeah, yes.


But at the same time, it does kind of demonstrate like, look, maybe it could have this guy was never. Yeah, he was never found. He jumped at the same time. The Englands in Morse were in the water, so maybe their bodies were never found. There was a sighting of a body about five weeks later, in July of nineteen sixty two by a group of Norwegian sailors who saw something kind of floating off. And they're like, is that a body?


Yeah, they got binoculars and they said, it's a body. It was a body.


It was floating upside down. So all they could see was the but basically kind of bobbing in the water and the but looked through their binoculars at least to have on jeans, on denim. And they, you know, that was part of the prison outfit was they were wearing denim. And this is the part that kind of gets a little flimsy to me is the FBI said that there were no missing persons in the area in that time frame that were wearing jeans.


Are you ready for this? So sitting down, who knows? And it was reported many weeks later. So it you know, it was all it was kind of hearsay, I guess, at that point it was.


And then by the time they actually reported the sighting, it was October. So they're like, well, that's kind of useless. But they do point to that and say, OK, this combined with Seymour Webb, we think that their bodies were swept out to sea. Not everybody agrees with that, including the England family, who very much maintain that their brothers survived this escape from Alcatraz and actually had a photograph that I don't know where they got it, but they they have a photograph that was supposedly taken of their brothers in Brazil in 1975, looks that they shared like it could have been them all.


It does. It certainly does. And there was actually a company I can't remember the name of the company, but they do like artificial intelligence, facial recognition. So they're just really leading the way to a dystopia. But they were like, hey, everybody, we want to introduce you to our software. So we're going to analyze this picture. And there I said, yeah, definitely the Angleton's. How cool is that?


Yeah, I mean, I certainly looked at it and it could be it didn't look so unlike them that it was like, no way. Right. And again, I found myself being like, yeah, man, these guys made it to Brazil.


And they're robbing banks there to this day. Exactly right. I have them raising cattle in Brazil. That's my that's my idea. In 2013, there was a letter sent to the San Francisco Police Department, supposedly from J.W. England saying, hey, we made it, guys, but just barely. Morris died in 2008. We kept in touch. Great guy. Clarence died in 2011. And I'm still alive, but I got cancer. I need help.


And I'm going to come forward if you if you promise and pinky swear and tell the public that you're not going to send me to jail for more than one year and you're going to heal my cancer.


Yeah. And apparently they analyzed the letter like this is inconclusive. But the FBI was like, we closed this case in nineteen seventy nine. We're not about to open it up. But here's the thing that the idea that they survived is at least possible enough that for this whole time, the U.S. Marshal's office who took over the case from the FBI in nineteen seventy nine have kept it open like these guys are wanted outlaws still to this day, even though they would be 89, 90 in 95, I think by now they are considered wanted fugitives.


And the case is open. Even though I believe the Marshals Service typically believes that they're dead, they haven't closed the case yet.


Here's my deal. If you do something like this and you don't leave some rock solid deathbed evidence, then you're just selfish.


You really are. You owe it to the world to to have this be a lead story and be like Frank Morris died.


And, you know, here's the evidence. Here's that little flower from the baby. Yeah, exactly.


Teach your smartest head of cattle to stamp out a message in Morse code. That's what I want you spending your dying days doing, teaching that cow.


The marshals say that they don't think they survived and went on to lead lives of solitude because they're like these guys are career criminals. They would have done something again. They would have gotten caught again. It's a good point.


Arguments for is that and they don't know if they planned this that way or not. But when they went on the day they went in, during the hours they went, they actually had a few good hours of pretty calm. Bay Currence, the you know, it could be so bad that they're going to pull you out to sea or so bad that they take you in the wrong direction, completely away from land.


Uh, and they said that, you know, whether it was just Providence or whether they planned it this way. They had a cloudy night, so there wasn't much light from the moon and they had a really calm bay. So in theory, they might could have done this.


They could have. But the winds were really terrible that night, too. I think they were gusts up to like twenty one miles an hour. Sustained winds of like ten miles an hour. In which direction, though? That's tough to ro. Who knows if it was lucky then. Yeah. If it was blowing them toward Angel Island that was in their favor, it was blowing in any other direction that would make it very, very clear to Brazil and then maybe, maybe so they're like, well that was fortunate.


Didn't even have to steal the car. The the other problem is the water. The water temperature is like fifty degrees Fahrenheit, which is very, very cold, and you get very numb and eventually sent into shock and then exhaustion pretty quickly after being in this water for thirty minutes or less.


But people swim in that thing. They do. And it's happened before. They have triathlon's in that water and people do it. So it's not to say that these guys could not have done it. It wasn't so frigid that science would say, oh no, you would die inside five minutes in this water.


Exactly. I mean especially if they were operating on adrenaline that they surely would have had from the escape. Shimmying fifty feet down a drain pipe alone will pump you full of some pretty decent adrenaline. So who knows what they were capable of at the time.


I have a theory here is that the Angolans killed Frank Morris out there on that raft, and that was the body they saw floating and that's why they made it to Brazil. And we never heard from Frank Morris again.


I don't like your theory. You don't think turning on them at the last minute?


No, no. My theory is that that body was actually Seymour Webb, that he was wearing denim jeans, underpants that got taken off of his other pants and that he wasn't actually dead.


But he met a mermaid or merman who he fell in love with and spent the rest of his life under the sea with one.


That's a lovely thing like that theory. But the cherry on top here is that those prisoners who wanted to help them escape because they thought the prison would close were right. The prison was shut down the following March, and the Bureau of Prisons said, you know what, we were going to shut this thing down anyway, because Alcatraz is just too much to keep up this. Yeah, this big concrete block on a rocky island. It's too expensive to keep up with very few guards.


So who knows? But in the movie they definitely saw. To portray it as is that's the reason why, yeah, and the warden never had a happy day again. That's right. Pretty satisfying film, pretty satisfying film.


And Chuck, I guess we set all this to say this.


We have a book coming out that we would love for you to preorder. Yeah, that's right.


Stuff you should know is that jarring, an incomplete compendium of mostly interesting thing. And guys, one of our lifelong dreams is to be on the New York Times bestseller list, and they give you a T-shirt. We really want to get on that list. And that list came out today. We wouldn't be on it. So we would love for you to step up and help our dreams come true. Sure. How's that for a plea?


I think that's a great plea, a plea and a plug altogether. It's a plea gig. Was this thing cost 20 bucks? I think so. And it's worth every penny I can tell you because we wrote it right. So that's it. If you want to go to our book, you can preorder anywhere you get books. Thank you. In advance. And I think that's it for Escape from Alcatraz to write. That's it. If you want to know more about escaping from Alcatraz, there is some really great articles and books and all sorts of stuff out there in the Internet for you to dig into.


So get taken. And I said get dig in. It's time for listener mail.


I'm going to call this Delaware response. We kind of poked fun at Delaware a little bit.


We now I guess it was me, but Delawareans, Delawareans, Delawareans, Delaware, Delawarean, they are lovely people, as it seems, because we've gotten quite a few emails and they all have good humor about their their lovely little state.


Hey, guys, are Delaware family had to laugh at your pirate radio podcast Delawareans. Oh, yeah, it's right. There would be proud to be known as the Luxenberg of the United States. Most people drive through our state on I-95 in less than 30 minutes.


But if you do stop by, our state is rich in history and agriculture and we have a few nice beaches. What you should know is the ark on the top of our state, I guess, is an arch is made by a 12 mile radius from Newcastle, an historic town. What many people do not know is the bottom of the ark formed a wedge betwixt Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware. The ownership of that land was in dispute between Delaware and Pennsylvania for decades, only to be resolved in twenty one.


Rumor has it that the disputed land was a haven for unsavory types who capitalized on the uncertain jurisdiction. Thanks for the show and informs and entertains my family. And we wish you well from Delaware, the first state to ratify the Constitution. Oh, that is from Doug Waggett. Get and Family.


Nice, Doug. Thank you. I would have led with the first state to ratify the Constitution thing.


I bet they tout that a lot. That's a good thing to tout.


Yeah, well, if you want to be like Doug and defend your state, whether it's Delaware or not, we want to hear from you and you can send it in an email to Stuff podcast and I heart radio dotcom. Stuff you should know is a production of radios HowStuffWorks for more podcasts, my radio is the radio app, Apple podcasts or wherever you listen to your favorite shows. In this time of pandemic and revolution, do you find yourself frustrated at high levels of corruption and inequality, at our inability to get basic things done at the persistence of systemic racism?


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